The Washington Post

Md. lawmaker was drinking before boat crash that injured 4 children

Anne Arundel County Delegate Don Dwyer, in wheelchair, speaks at a news conference outside Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (Alex Dominguez/AP)

Maryland Del. Donald H. Dwy­er Jr. said Thursday that he was under the influence of alcohol when the boat he was piloting Wednesday struck a vessel full of children, injuring four, one seriously.

The youngest, a 5-year-old girl, was carried from the site by a Maryland State Police medevac helicopter. She remained hospitalized Thursday night at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. Authorities declined to speak about her condition but said that her injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Hours after state authorities said they were investigating whether alcohol consumption by the three-term lawmaker contributed to the Wednesday evening crash, Dwyer appeared before reporters expressing remorse and asking for forgiveness.

In a statement, he said his blood alcohol content was 0.2, more than twice the legal limit for operating a boat.

“It is true that I was drinking while operating my boat,” said Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel), wearing a neck brace and reading a statement after he was wheeled outside Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

“No one, no one, should be drinking and operating a motor vehicle or powerboat,” he said. “I deeply regret my actions, and I ask for forgiveness from the public. My heart and prayers go out to the family that was involved in the accident, and I pray for them to have a speedy recovery.”

Dwyer, 54, one of Maryland’s most conservative lawmakers, is best known for leading vehement opposition to Democrats’ efforts to legalize same-sex marriage and for failed attempts to impeach state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) for his support of same-sex marriage.

According to authorities, Dwy­er and a male passenger were aboard Dwyer’s boat, and the other, smaller boat carried five children and two adults who had been tubing in the Magothy River, about five miles north of Route 50 in Dwyer’s district. Moments before the 7 p.m. impact, Dwyer attempted to veer his 27-foot Baja away from the 18-foot Bayliner, but the boats collided, sending people flying from both.

Dwyer’s boat sank, and nearby boaters and witnesses — including a registered nurse — rushed to the scene to pull all nine people, many of whom were bloodied in the collision, from the water.

Sgt. Brian Albert of the Maryland Natural Resources Police said that Mark Harbin, 51, the pilot of the smaller boat, passed an alcohol screening, but he said authorities had reason to believe that Dwyer was under the influence.

Albert said he did not know on what basis Dwyer asserted that his blood alcohol content had been 0.2. He said police did not expect to receive results from his blood test for at least two weeks.

“I don’t know if he’s making it up or what. He may have had a preliminary [test] at the hospital. I don’t know,” Albert said.

If the blood-alcohol figure Dwy­er cited is correct, the 10-year lawmaker and member of the House Judiciary Committee could be charged with several criminal offenses.

A measure on the ballot in November is aimed at removing corrupt officials from office more quickly. It would suspend a lawmaker when found guilty of certain crimes, instead of months later, when a conviction became final. Dwyer voted for the bill.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.

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